Make Process Docs More Storyboard, Less Schematic

I love PS Magazine.

PS is the Army’s way of making the maintenance of very complicated and dangerous equipment easy to understand.

I love PS because they’ve figured out a way to do the following:

  • Make process visual
  • Communicate difficult concepts in easy to understand terms

In business process management (BPM) world, business process notation is one way to make process visual, as are swimlane diagrams, process flows, decision trees.

What I love about PS is that PS knows its audience and engages the reader, and acheives the same goals as BPM in gaining process management and efficiencies, but in a very natural way.

For the Processs Geek, PS is the best process read you’ll ever have. Why?  Because PS is a Comic.

Here’s what works with PS:

All pictures except the BPN picture are from PS Issue 702, May 2011

Big chunky breakdowns of process with pictures

This type of visual is easy to grasp.  This is a process flow about how to mount a gun.  There’s Step 1, which has three possible decisions points 1a, 1b, 1c and then there’s Step 2.  Each step has a picture and notational direction.

Compare that to this:

Business Process Notation for the Same Process

Personification of Objects

The artifacts come alive – they have likes and dislikes.  This is somehow easier to grasp than a long list of Do’s and Don’ts.

Poor computers - they're overheating - Better store them correctly!

Multiple User Characters

There are multiple types of machine users and people on base who interact with the process. Each one gets thier own persona.  So instead of swimlanes on a diagram, we actually see the person, give them a name and watch how they interact with the process.

So many users...

Dialogue of Process Interactions

Process is demonstrated through dialogue- the scene is acted out, and the users verbally describe how and what they do in the process.  Compare this to task boxes on a process flow diagram.

And one thing I learned from my audience at a presentation I gave on BPM for Small Business; start with the picture first, then work back through the process.

My instinct is to give someone a documented process visual – swimlane or something of the sort, and then documented process steps that correspond to that document.

But what PS teaches, and what my attendees taught me, is that you start with the picture of what you’re trying to achieve, then introduce the schematics.

It’s like when you go to Ikea – you pick the design you like, take it home, and then you follow the process doc.  If we ordered furniture using process docs, Ikea would go out of business.

So wouldn’t it be cool if we could produce process documents like this – more storyboard and less schematic?


7 thoughts on “Make Process Docs More Storyboard, Less Schematic

  1. I love this idea. I can’t tell you how many times I have presented fantastically complicated (and accurate) process models to expressionless clients. I can see how this format could work better.

    I came across a similar observation with corporate vision statements. Traditional vision statements are written in text. An alternative idea is to create a drawing or assemble a collage of drawings/photos to create a visual vision statement. One example appears here — I created a visual vision statement for my business months ago and don’t have any trouble remembering the details of the vision.

  2. Jeff,

    We are visual animals. The advertising firms know this, so
    we may need to think about ways to ‘advertise’ process.

    The visual vision is astonishing in that it’s conveying a feeling – i see that and I ‘get’ what it’s like to work there. And that’s with no words at all.

    I think we should keep exploring in this space.

    Thanks for your comment!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s